The world should be considered a classroom where daily learning takes place, as long as you seize the opportunities given to you. If you’re fortunate enough to study Animal Science at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, your labs might even extend into one of the farm units, where hands-on learning takes place for students.
The OSU Sheep and Goat Center is one of those places where students can learn each semester about the daily care of the animals from feeding and nutrition to general health, breeding, lambing and kidding and more. According to Darin Annuschat, herdsman at the unit, about eight different classes come to the unit each semester for labs. Another 4 to 7 students work there during the year, taking care of the 100 head of sheep and 50 goats daily and improving their animal husbandry skills along the way.
The flock consists of a mix of black-faced crossbred ewes along with some purebred Hamps and Dorsets with the goal of raising club lambs to sell young exhibitors. The Boer goat herd is also bred to raise show wethers. While teaching is important, the number one priority is to keep all the animals healthy and get the mamas bred.
“It’s those girls’ job to be mamas. It’s the point of why we have them. So, their overall general health benefits so many things like reproductive efficiency and the ewes having more twins and being in better physical shape,” Annuschat said.
He credits the nutrition program the ewes and does are on for helping keep the animals feeling and looking healthy. They have been on the DuraFerm® program since before Annuschat started managing the sheep and goat center, seven years ago. DuraFerm products contain balanced levels of high-quality vitamin and minerals required for growth, breeding and lambing or kidding. DuraFerm also contains Amaferm®, a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to increase the energy available to the animal resulting in more milk production as well as the ability to initiate and maintain pregnancy and fertility.
“It seems like those ewes breed a little quicker. It seems like we don’t have nearly as many open ewes. It just helps so much from that end of it, but you get into lambing seasons and those ewes are in even better shape. They end up milking better, raising those lambs better. We don’t have as many parturition problems. It’s just the ball rolling down the hill. It helps from the beginning and helps down the line,” Annuschat said of the DuraFerm mineral.
Currently, Annuschat feeds DuraFerm Sheep Concept•Aid®, DuraFerm Sheep Concept•Aid Protein Tubs and DuraFerm Goat Concept•Aid. He can tell the sheep and goats crave the vitamins and minerals in the product and with an improvement in overall and reproductive health, he is glad to give them a product they like eating.
Even though OSU was feeding the DuraFerm mineral when Annuschat started working there, he knew the positive reputation of the brand and didn’t feel there was a need to change. In labs, he continues to teach the importance of nutrition and its role in the animal’s life. Healthy animals live healthy, more reproductive lives that save time and money in labor and treatments, and those are important lessons for his students. Some of the best lessons are learned outside, and the lessons learned at the Oklahoma Sheep and Goat Center are teaching young livestock enthusiasts how to strengthen their stock with a sound nutrition program.